What Are Common Foot Injuries at Work?August 17, 2022
There are all kinds of jobs where worker’s feet can take a beating. The feet are one of the most hardworking parts of the body in anyone’s daily life. However, at work they are also one of the most vulnerable parts for a range of work-place injuries. Carrying heavy objects, navigating tripping hazards, jumping off loading platforms, and even standing for long period can all put workers at risk for foot pain and foot injury. Therefore, it is important to understand common foot problems and how to avoid them at work.
What Are the Most Common Workplace Foot Injuries?
Whether you are a construction worker, health care aid, or retail supervisor, employees across all industries are susceptible to foot injuries. With so many workplace hazards at foot-level, there are numerous foot injuries that can occur on the job. Some of the most common workplace foot injuries include the following:
- Broken feet: Broken feet is one of the top workplace foot injuries. Anyone working around heavy equipment is at risk for crushing injuries to the feet, which often result in fractures. Lisfranc fractures are particularly debilitating and can occur not only from crushing accidents, but also from twisting or slip and fall accidents. When the Lisfranc ligament is injured, it can cause both a fracture and dislocation, which can eventually progress into arthritis in the middle of the foot.
- Sprained ankles and feet: One of the most common workplace foot injuries is spraining. A sprain is a stretched or torn ligament, which is the piece of the body that connects bone to bone. These injuries are typically caused when workers step into a hole or onto an object that results in planting feet unevenly and twisting ankles or feet incorrectly. Slip and fall incidents often cause these types of injuries in the workplace.
- Plantar fasciitis: Employees who are on their feet at work all day are most susceptible to this common cause of foot pain. The plantar fascia ligament connects the heel to the front of the foot, while supporting the foot’s arch. This ligament can become inflamed and irritated as a result of overuse, which causes serious pain at the bottom of the foot.
- Bunions: Bunions are another workplace injury that can happen as the result of standing for long periods, especially if wearing inappropriate footwear. A bunion is the formation of a bony protrusion at the inner base of the big toe, which pushes it out of place and into the other toes. Symptoms of bunions include painful swelling and redness around the bulging bump and toe joints.
- Punctures: Punctures are painful injuries that often occur on the sole of the foot. Loose nails, hooks, sharp metal, or glass objects are common causes of puncture foot injuries in the workplace. Many outdoor jobs pose this type of foot hazard, such as logging, fishing, and hydro linework.
- Cuts, lacerations, or amputation: The feet are vulnerable to cuts and lacerations in a variety of work environments. Workers who use chainsaws, rotary motors, or unguarded machinery are especially at risk for foot injuries that involve cuts, lacerations, and amputation of toes or feet.
- Burns and electric shocks: Workers who perform their jobs around flammable materials, molten metal, and chemicals are at risk for dangerous splashes, explosions, and burns to the feet. Static electricity and contact with electrical sources can also cause burns, as well as electric shock injuries.
- Hypothermia: Employees who work in cold weather and are exposed to extreme temperatures are at risk for hypothermia, frost bite, and eventual amputation of feet or toes.
What Are Common Workplace Hazards that Cause Foot Injuries?
There are a variety of scenarios and conditions in workplace environments that can cause foot injuries. Some of the most common workplace hazards that can lead to foot injuries include:
- Falling and rolling objects: Heavy objects that fall or roll over can crush a worker’s foot, resulting in broken bones or sometimes amputation.
- Slippery walking surfaces: Unsafe walking surfaces can lead to slip and fall accidents, causing workers to twist, sprain, or fracture their feet.
- Sharp objects: Sharp objects and machinery can cause lacerations on worker’s feet, while loose nails or broken glass can cause puncture wounds to the bottom of the foot.
- Extended periods of standing: Employees such as retail workers are often on their feet for long periods of time, which can lead to cumulative foot injuries such as bunions, corns, and fallen arches.
- Chemical solutions: Chemicals that are splashed or spilled can cause burns to worker’s feet that are not properly protected by safety footwear or overshoes.
- High voltage electrical currents: Powerful electrical currents can cause electric chock or fatal electrical exposure in wet workplace environments. The construction industry is the most at risk for electrical hazards, as well as workers who perform electrical installations and repairs, testing of fixtures and equipment, and inspection and maintenance. Even office workers who work indirectly with electricity may be exposed to electrical hazards.
- Exposure to extreme cold: Some workers are required to work outside for long periods in cold environments, including those in the fishing and agriculture industry, emergency and recovery personnel, and police officers. Even indoor employees may be exposed to cold environments when working in the food processing industry with cold products and freezers. Exposure to cold can lead to permanent damage to the small blood vessels in the skin, causing redness, itching, blistering, inflammation, and ulceration in severe cases.
How Can Workplace Foot Injuries Be Prevented?
Preventing foot injuries starts with identifying and addressing relevant hazards in the workplace. Next, employers need to take steps to eliminate or reduce those hazards through workplace design and providing proper foot protection. OSHA has set forth several foot safety requirements. Examples of proper foot and leg protection include:
- Safety shoes: Safety shoes should have impact-resistant toes and heat-resistant soles to protect feet against hot work surfaces that are common in paving, roofing, and hot metal industries. Some safety shoes have metal insoles to protect against puncture wounds. Certain workers should wear safety boots to provide special electrical conduction or insulation, in order to prevent static electricity or electric shock.
- Chemical-resistant boots: It is necessary for some workers to wear chemical-resistant boots, to provide protection from toxic, caustic, reactive, or corrosive materials during surface preparation or cleaning.
- Slip-resistant soles: An important foot safety requirement is that employees must wear slip-resistant soled shoes while working on slippery surfaces.
- Metatarsal guards: These are made of aluminum, steel, fiber, or plastic and should be strapped on the outside of shoes to protect the instep area from impact and compression.
- Toe guards: Toe guards fit over regular shoes and are typically made of steel, aluminum, or plastic. They should be worn to protect toes from impact and compression hazards.
- Foot and shin guards: Combination foot and shin guards should be worn to protect the lower legs and feet, and they can be used together with toe guards to provide the greatest protection against workplace hazards.
- Leggings: Leggings should be worn to protect the feet and lower legs from heat hazards such as welding sparks or molten metal. They are usually made with safety snaps that allow them to be removed quickly.
In addition to wearing proper footwear, it is important to keep work areas and walkways free of clutter to prevent trip and falls and foot injuries. Tools and work materials should be stored safely so they do not fall off of work surfaces or shelves. Spills should be also cleaned up promptly to prevent slip and fall accidents that can result in serious foot injuries.
How Can Workplace Design Reduce Foot Injuries?
There are several ways employers and managers can reduce the likelihood of workplace foot injuries. The following are ways to increase foot safety at work:
- Proper guarding of dangerous machines such as chain saws and rotary mowers can prevent cuts, lacerations, and severed feet or toes.
- Safety signs properly posted in places where safety footwear is required, or when there are potential hazards from falling objects or sharp materials.
- Use of angular lighting and color contrast can improve depth perception and vision in challenging areas such as stairwells, ramps, and passageways, thereby reducing trip and fall accidents.
- Removing mobile equipment from pedestrian traffic and installing safety mirrors can decrease accidents that result in lacerated or crushed feet and toes.
- Proper inspection and regular maintenance of safety footwear and workplace equipment are essential to prevent foot injuries.
What Should I Do if I Suffered a Foot Injury at Work?
Anytime an employee is injured while at work, it is crucial that the worker seek proper medical attention immediately. It is also important that workers notify their employer or supervisor and report the accident as soon as possible. All possible documentation of the workplace accident should be gathered, including photos of the scene, statements from any witnesses, and timecards that reflect the injured employee’s working hours.
If you suffered a foot injury at work, you may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits under your state’s employment law. These benefits can help cover ongoing medical bills and lost wages throughout the recovery from your injury. It is important to consult with a knowledgeable Workers’ Compensation lawyer to help you navigate the claims process, handle the appeal of a denied claim, and take care of any other potential issues that may arise. An experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer will ensure that you receive the fair compensation that you need and for which you are entitled after a workplace foot injury.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Injured Workers in All Industries
If you were injured performing the duties of your job, the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton will prioritize your needs and fight for your right to benefits. We understand that getting injured in a workplace accident can be an overwhelming experience. Our accomplished team will handle all the details from the time of your accident until the time your claim gets approved. Call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.